Arab Mass Media: Newspapers, Radio, and Television in Arab Politics. William A. Rugh. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004. 259 pp. $49.95 hbk.
Arab Mass Media: Newspapers, Radio, and Television in Arab Politics by William A. Rugh may possibly be the best single-authored text on the subject. Rugh introduces an analytical framework for viewing a spectrum of the different media systems that span the Arab world and then uses that framework to discuss the region's print and broadcast media. Rugh has made the complex manageable and, by extension, understandable. In doing so, he has made a valuable contribution to international journalism and mass communication scholarship.
The book is a research-rich review of mass media development, structure, and function for the Arab world as a whole and for the twenty-two Arab countries individually. The introductory chapter surveys dominant cultural, economic, and political features shared by the Arab mass media. Following this general overview is an analytical framework comprising four distinct media systems: mobilization, loyalist, diverse, and transitional. Each system is explained with ample detail and examples, beginning with the print medium. The final chapters of the book are devoted to broadcast media, including radio, terrestrial television, and satellite networks.
Rugh's analytical framework stems from three research observations. First, the mass media in the Arab world are not a monolithic mass but rather distinct media systems. Rugh identifies four media systems, each exhibiting a discernable pattern of media development, structure, and function. second, the media system of a particular country is influenced by the political, economic, and cultural features of that country's leader and society. As Rugh says, the media respond to and reflect the "environment." Third, the media systems of the Arab world do not fit neatly into Western-derived media models. Applying foreign models, says Rugh, produces a superficial, if not distorted, picture.
Several strengths of Rugh's book stand out. At the top of the list is Rugh's expansive knowledge of the Arab world. From the very first page, one gets the sense that Rugh is intimately familiar not only with Arab media but also the coffeehouses where people gather to discuss them. And indeed he is. Fluent in Arabic, Rugh has lived in several Arab countries and has traveled extensively throughout the region. His book draws heavily from oral interviews, a vital source of information in a culture that thrives on interpersonal relations. …